AS SKILLED OPERATOR SHORTAGE CONTINUES, TECHNOLOGY STEPS INTO THE GAP
Finding experienced equipment operators is a challenge nearly every contractor faces. As companies struggle to fill open positions, manufacturers are aiding the effort, adding technologies that make our machines easier to operate safely and productively. New features and capabilities are showing up in every product family. Take a look.
Excavators: Quick, accurate grading
Bucket guidance and control technologies are moving into the mainstream as the latest generation of excavators hits the market. The most basic systems provide visual guidance, displaying a 2D image in the cab that helps the operator cut and fill faster and more accurately. More advanced systems actually assist the operator, automating key boom and bucket movements to reduce fatigue and improve grading accuracy. 3D grade control systems are also growing in popularity, allowing operators of all skill levels to finish jobs faster with less fuel, materials and rework.
Beyond grading technologies, new excavators may feature onboard tools for managing payload or setting electronic boundaries around a machine, as well as closed-circuit cameras and a new wave of telematics systems that track location, fuel burn, utilization and other factors.
Wheel Loaders: Precise payloads
Payload management technology is making its mark in the wheel loader world. These onboard systems track load weight automatically while a machine works. Payload data flows to the cab in real time, making it easier for operators to know exactly when the bucket is full. The result: quick, confident loading with fewer unnecessary cycles and less frequent over- or underloading. Payload data is also transmitted automatically to production managers who use it to track material flow, flag inefficiencies, evaluate system matchups and identify training opportunities. With this technology—and others like camera and remote monitoring systems—wheel loader owners are better equipped to meet productivity targets, even when skilled labor is in short supply.
Dozers: Power, speed and agility
For decades, brute strength was the key differentiator in dozer design. But now, owners are also demanding speed and agility. Manufacturers have responded with a variety of technologies. Simple sensors have been added to monitor and display the blade’s slope and fore/aft orientation, making it easier for operators to work safely and efficiently on slopes. Other sensing and control systems are being used to stabilize the blade as it moves over uneven ground, helping operators produce smooth surfaces faster. 2D and 3D grade control systems are also available, each delivering another level of time and cost savings. Some new dozers feature auto-carry and auto-rip capabilities, and many incorporate the high-definition camera and asset management systems found on new excavators and wheel loaders.
One upside of the labor shortage
The tight labor pool promises to be an enduring problem. But as we adjust to the new normal, the industry—which has been reluctant to try new technology—is beginning to take a closer look. And that’s driving even more innovation from manufacturers like Caterpillar. Watch for even more processes and systems that raise productivity, enhance safety, lower costs and improve environmental performance.
Learn about productivity technologies on Cat® next generation excavators here.